Author Archives: Ruth McElroy

Tackling everyday sexism in the Lib Dems

I love Emma Walker. I really do, and not just Emma the badass who stunned the Scottish Party with the first known use of the word “vulva” on the conference stage or her tales of intrepid recruitment adventures, including everyone’s favourite bra fitter. The Emma I love is someone who in the two years I’ve known her has stood beside me in every step I’ve taken in my Chairship of Scottish Liberal Democrat Women, who has bought me more pizza than I’ve ever returned, and who’s dried my tears so many times whenever I’m overwhelmed or heartbroken, no matter what she was dealing with in her own life.

It’s that Emma who has stunned so many this week with her brave video detailing some of the gender discrimination she has faced within the party, ranging from the mundane to the allegedly criminal. Her post has now been viewed thousands of times and has triggered an avalanche of support.

It’s hard to describe how I’ve felt watching women and men comment on the post expressing their shock, sadness and support. Too many have said they have experienced similar problems within politics. The bravery of the women who have sent me their stories, insisting I use them to do anything in my power to effect change has had me crying over my laptop more than once. Truly, the #GirlsSupportingGirls spirit is out in force.

Our party has done so much good work on gender equality, and I have been proud to watch Lib Dem legislation such as Shared Parental Leave and Pay Gap Reporting make a real difference to people’s lives, and I know that our party is bursting at the seams with principled and passionate intersectional feminists willing to do the hard work to make our society fairer and more equal for everyone.

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When I first took charge of Scottish Liberal Democrat Women earlier this year, my mission was simple: I was going to save the women.

In Scotland, we are fortunate to have the brilliant MPs Jo Swinson and Christine Jardine, but the proportion of women elected at all levels simply isn’t good enough. We are running an almighty campaign to get the brilliant Beatrice Wishart in the Scottish Parliamentary by-election in Shetland later this month but even when we get her elected, she will be the only one of 5 Lib Dem MSPs who is a woman. Luckily, our elected men couldn’t be better allies – I have personally witnessed Willie Rennie putting in real effort to push through new rules on all women shortlists, and encouraging many women to consider their futures with the party.

As to how to save the women, this was the subject of many a conversation amongst my network of Lib Dem Ladies, a WhatsApp group which has become somewhat infamous at Scottish conferences full of women who inspire me every day. There are a few more ideas in the pipeline but the one we’ve been working hard on for the last few months is #GirlsSupportingGirls.

We know that there are many, many women in our party who would make brilliant MPs, MSPs and local councillors, and we want to make sure that they achieve their goals. That is why for the last few months, we’ve been gathering SLDW members and sending them to support female candidates of all sorts. We started with the brilliant Jenny Marr, PPC for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, and have been travelling across the UK since, even road tripping to Brecon and Radnorshire to help out our brand new MP Jane Dodds. 

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